KENDRAPARA: Millions of baby turtles emerged from eggshells at the nesting site in Nasi-1 and 2 islands of Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, the world’s largest rookery of endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles within Bhitarkanika National Park, on Sunday.
After emerging from the pits, the turtle hatchlings started their journey towards the sea. During their arribada on the islands, the Olive Ridleys laid 3,49,694 eggs, between March 9 and 23.
A female turtle usually lays around 80 to 100 eggs, said divisional forest officer (DFO) of Bhitarkanika Bikash Ranjan Dash.
The female turtles drag their weight ashore, dig a nest with their back flippers, deposit around a hundred eggs and cover the nests before returning to the sea.
The eggs incubate in the warm sand while the females never visit their nests again to take care of the eggs or hatchlings. After 40 to 45 days, two-inch long baby turtles emerge in groups from the nests in the night and scurry down the beach to sea. Once at sea, a new life begins, Dash informed.
Forest guards have been deployed to prevent dogs, jackals, birds and other animals from preying on the baby turtles. Bright lights from the missile test range at Abdul Kalam Island (formerly known as Wheeler’s Island) near Gahirmatha beach disorient the turtle hatchlings and instead of crawling towards the sea, the hatchlings venture towards land leading to instant death. To protect the baby turtles, defence personnel have masked the bright lights of the test range.
The mortality rate of the baby turtles in sea is high and out of 1,000 hatchlings, only one survives to become an adult. After reaching around 20 years of age, the turtles return to the same beach for mating and laying eggs.
Breeding centre at Chaumukh sought
Wildlife enthusiasts on Monday urged the State government to declare Chaumukh sea beach in Baliapal block as an Olive Ridley turtle breeding centre. A huge number of turtles throng the beach and lay eggs in March every year.
Due to climate change and contamination of seawater, the rare species find it hard to survive. Narayan Khatua, a local, said, a memorandum in this regard will be submitted to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik soon.